Christopher Joyce

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.

Joyce seeks out stories in some of the world's most inaccessible places. He has reported from remote villages in the Amazon and Central American rainforests, Tibetan outposts in the mountains of western China, and the bottom of an abandoned copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Over the course of his career, Joyce has written stories about volcanoes, hurricanes, human evolution, tagging giant blue-fin tuna, climate change, wars in Kosovo and Iraq and the artificial insemination of an African elephant.

For several years, Joyce was an editor and correspondent for NPR's Radio Expeditions, a documentary program on natural history and disappearing cultures produced in collaboration with the National Geographic Society that was heard frequently on Morning Edition.

Joyce came to NPR in 1993 as a part-time editor while finishing a book about tropical rainforests and, as he says, "I just fell in love with radio." For two years, Joyce worked on NPR's national desk and was responsible for NPR's Western coverage. But his interest in science and technology soon launched him into parallel work on NPR's science desk.

In addition, Joyce has written two non-fiction books on scientific topics for the popular market: Witnesses from the Grave: The Stories Bones Tell (with co-author Eric Stover); and Earthly Goods: Medicine-Hunting in the Rainforest.

Before coming to NPR, Joyce worked for ten years as the U.S. correspondent and editor for the British weekly magazine New Scientist.

Joyce's stories on forensic investigations into the massacres in Kosovo and Bosnia were part of NPR's war coverage that won a 1999 Overseas Press Club award. He was part of the Radio Expeditions reporting and editing team that won the 2001 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University journalism award and the 2001 Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Joyce won the 2001 American Association for the Advancement of Science excellence in journalism award.

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Environment
6:10 am
Tue July 15, 2014

Underwater Meadows Might Serve As Antacid For Acid Seas

UC Santa Barbara's Jay Lunden and Andrew Brinkman, a summer intern for NOAA, prepare to deploy an instrument that measures temperature and salinity throughout the water column, and collects water samples.
Umihiko Hoshijima UCSB

Originally published on Tue July 15, 2014 12:45 pm

The world's oceans are changing — chemically changing. As people put more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the oceans absorb more of it, and that's making the water more acidic.

The effects are subtle in most places, but scientists say that if this continues, it could be a disaster for marine life.

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Science
3:37 am
Fri July 4, 2014

Dance Of Human Evolution Was Herky-Jerky, Fossils Suggest

Our popular image of Homo erectus as the proto-guy who whose human-like traits all emerged at once needs overhauling, some anthropologists say.
Sylvain Entressangle Science Source

Originally published on Sat July 5, 2014 1:18 am

A trio of anthropologists has decided it's time to rewrite the story of human evolution.

That narrative has always been a work in progress, because almost every time scientists dig up a new fossil bone or a stone tool, it adds a new twist to the story. Discoveries lead to new arguments over the details of how we became who we are.

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Science
2:03 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Maybe Dinosaurs Were A Coldblooded, Warmblooded Mix

Being a bit coldblooded has its charms, scientists say. A mammal the size of a T. rex, for example, would have to eat constantly to feed its supercharged metabolism — and would probably starve.
Publiphoto Science Source

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 5:23 am

If you go to a zoo on a cold day and watch the snakes, you'll see what it means to be coldblooded. Not much action going on — most reptiles and other coldblooded creatures take on the temperature of their surroundings, so they tend to be most sluggish when the outside temperature is cool. The monkeys, however, act like they've had one too many cappuccinos.

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Science
3:48 am
Tue June 10, 2014

Spiders Tune In To Web's Music To Size Up Meals And Mates

Hairlike sensors on the the legs of the golden silk spider help it "listen" to the thrum of its web.
I'll Never Grow Up Flickr

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 5:03 pm

Some of the toughest stuff in nature is spider silk — as strong, ounce for ounce, as nylon. And a silk web makes a great trap for prey, as well as a nice place for a spider to live.

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Animals
5:16 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Scientists Find Africa's Longest Land Migration: Zebras' 350-Mile Trek

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 7:11 pm

Wildlife biologists have discovered the longest known terrestrial migration in Africa: some 350 miles across southern Africa by huge herds of zebras. Large mammal migration in Africa has generally been hindered by the subdivision and fencing of land. However, this one remains possible because it takes place in a unique, multi-country wildlife corridor.

Science
5:09 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Hybrid Trout Threaten Montana's Native Cutthroats

Clint Muhlfeld, an aquatic ecologist with the USGS, holds a native Westslope cutthroat trout in Glacier National Park.
Noah Clayton USGS

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 9:53 am

Many parts of the U.S. have been getting warmer over the past several decades, and also experiencing persistent drought. Wildlife often can't adjust. Among the species that are struggling is one of the American West's most highly prized fish — the cutthroat trout.

In springtime, you can find young cutthroats in the tiny streams of Montana's Shields Basin. Bend over and look closely and you might see a 2-inch fish wriggling out from under a submerged rock — the spawn of native cutthroats.

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Science
3:34 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Former Commando Turns Conservationist To Save Elephants Of Dzanga Bai

Kalron and his team have set up video cameras that transmit real-time images of the bai via satellite.
Courtesy of Maisha Consulting

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 3:26 pm

In the spring of 2013, poachers looking for elephant ivory took advantage of the chaos of a civil war raging in the Central African Republic, and massacred 26 rare forest elephants at a special place called the "Dzanga bai."

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Science
9:55 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Civil War Invades An Elephant Sanctuary: One Researcher's Escape

A female forest elephant charges, in Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve in the Central African Republic.
Michael K. Nichols National Geographic/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 10:14 am

Ivory poachers are killing some 22,000 African elephants a year. Among the recent casualties was a group of rare forest elephants in the Central African Republic.

Those elephants were featured in an NPR program, Radio Expeditions, in 2002, when former NPR host and correspondent Alex Chadwick and sound engineer Bill McQuay went to central Africa to record them.

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Science
3:43 am
Wed April 16, 2014

A T. Rex Treks To Washington For A Shot At Fame

Pat Leiggi (right) of the Museum of the Rockies prepares to move a leg bone of the T. rex at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
Maggie Starbard NPR

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 4:33 pm

This week, scientists at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History will start unpacking some rare and precious cargo. It's something the Smithsonian has never had before — a nearly complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

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Research News
7:00 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Methane-Producing Microbes Caused 'The Great Dying'

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 8:23 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning. The biggest extinction the Earth has ever seen took place 250 million years ago and it remains something of a mystery. Scientists suspected giant volcanoes or perhaps an asteroid caused it, but NPR's Christopher Joyce has seen new research suggesting the cause might not have been so cataclysmic - maybe something much more subtle.

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Science
4:31 am
Thu March 20, 2014

The 500-Pound 'Chicken From Hell' Likely Ate Whatever It Wanted

Courtesy of Bob Walters

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 4:07 pm

For the past decade, dinosaur scientists have been puzzling over a set of fossil bones they variously describe as weird and bizarre. Now they've figured out what animal they belonged to: a bird-like creature they're calling "the chicken from hell."

There are two reasons for the name.

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Science
3:00 am
Fri January 10, 2014

When Big Carnivores Go Down, Even Vegetarians Take The Hit

Ask not for whom the wolf stalks ...
Holly Kuchera iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 12:45 pm

Big, fierce animals — lions and tigers and bears, for example — are relatively scarce in nature. That's normal, because if you have too many, they'll eat themselves out of prey.

But top predators are now so rare that many are in danger of disappearing. That's creating ripple effects throughout the natural world that scientists are still trying to figure out.

What they're exploring is ecology — the interplay of animals and plants in nature. It's not rocket science. It's harder.

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The Salt
3:22 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Looks Like The Paleo Diet Wasn't Always So Hot For Ancient Teeth

Say aaaaaah! Dental caries and other signs of oral disease are plain to see in the upper teeth of this hunter-gatherer, between 14,000 and 15,000 years old. The findings challenge the idea that the original paleo diet was inherently healthy, says paleo-anthropologist Louise Humphrey. It all depended, she says, on what wild foods were available.
Courtesy of Isabelle De Groote

Originally published on Mon January 6, 2014 6:16 pm

One of the hinge points in human history was the invention of agriculture. It led to large communities, monumental architecture and complex societies. It also led to tooth decay.

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Environment
3:03 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Federal Flood Insurance Program Drowning In Debt. Who Will Pay?

Even when a flood obliterates homes, as Superstorm Sandy did in 2012 in the Rockaway neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., the urge to rebuild can be strong.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 11:42 am

Millions of American property owners get flood insurance from the federal government, and a lot of them get a hefty discount. But over the past decade, the government has paid out huge amounts of money after floods, and the flood insurance program is deeply in the red.

Congress tried to fix that in 2012 by passing a law to raise insurance premiums. Now that move has created such uproar among property owners that Congress is trying to make the law it passed disappear.

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Science
5:04 am
Sun December 29, 2013

Centuries Before China's 'Great Wall,' There Was Another

In Jiaonan county, the Qi wall incorporates outcrops of bedrock.
Linda Nicholas The Field Museum

Originally published on Sun December 29, 2013 11:12 am

The Great Wall of China, built more than 2,000 years ago, stands as one of the monumental feats of ancient engineering. Stretching thousands of miles, it protected the newly unified country from foreign invaders.

But before the Great Wall, warring Chinese dynasties built many other walls for protection. An American archaeologist recently began surveying one of the biggest.

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The Salt
3:18 am
Thu December 26, 2013

More People Have More To Eat, But It's Not All Good News

The Brazilian agricultural sector exported for a value of $94,590 million in 2011. One of its largest exports is soybeans, like these in Cascavel, Parana.
Werner Rudhart DPA /Landov

Originally published on Thu December 26, 2013 9:03 am

Among the things to celebrate this holiday season is the fact that there are fewer hungry people in the world. Just how many? Well, since 1965, researchers in Europe have been tracking the world's food supply and where it's going.

The good news is: The percentage of the world's population getting what the researchers say is a sufficient diet has grown from 30 percent to 61 percent.

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Environment
7:52 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Scientists Battle Over Fate Of Yellowstone's Grizzlies

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The North America's grizzly bear is protected under the Endangered Species Act. Its population was virtually wiped out in the lower 48 states. One group of bears, though, may soon lose that protection - the Yellowstone grizzly. Some scientists say that group is thriving. Others disagree. NPR's Christopher Joyce has more on the battle over the bear.

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Environment
5:48 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Long Island Wins Ultimate Faceoff Against Hurricane Sandy

Sediment samples from the seafloor near Long Island.
UT Austin Institute for Geophysics

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 8:50 pm

Hurricane Sandy last year did more harm to coastal cities and homes than any hurricane in U.S. history, except Katrina. Most of that damage has been repaired. But there's other damage that people can't see to the underwater coastline, known as the shore face.

Apparently, Long Island's shore face did remarkably well against the storm of the 21st century.

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Environment
6:09 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

U.S. May Be Producing 50 Percent More Methane Than EPA Thinks

The EPA tries to keep track of all sorts of methane producers — including herds of methane-belching cattle.
Emmett Tullos Flickr

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 7:59 pm

Methane is the source of the gas we burn in stoves. You can also use it to make plastics, antifreeze or fertilizer. It comes out of underground deposits, but it also seeps up from swamps, landfills, even the stomachs of cows.

And while methane is valuable, a lot of it gets up into the atmosphere, where it becomes a very damaging greenhouse gas.

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Typhoon Haiyan Devastates The Philippines
5:05 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

How And Where Should We Rebuild After Natural Disasters?

The wreckage in Tacloban, Philippines, on Nov. 16 was overwhelming, after Typhoon Haiyan plowed through.
David P. Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 6:27 pm

The physical damage from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is catastrophic. Hundreds of thousands of people are now homeless.

Soon, though, people will start to rebuild, as they have after similar natural disasters.

How they do it, and where, is increasingly important in places like the Philippines. The island nation lies in a sort of "typhoon alley," and with climate change and rising sea levels, there are more storms in store.

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The Salt
4:16 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Meat Mummies: How Ancient Egyptians Prepared Feasts For Afterlife

Anyone up for meat mummies? Above, a mummified beef rib from the tomb of Tjuiu, an Egyptian noblewoman, and her husband, the powerful courtier Yuya, circa 1386-1349 BC.
Image courtesy of PNAS

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 12:25 pm

Meat mummies.

It's a word pairing that is, I dare say, pretty rare. Who among us has heard those two words together? What, indeed, could a "meat mummy" be?

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Environment
3:04 am
Fri November 15, 2013

A Rancher And A Conservationist Forge An Unlikely Alliance

Trout fishing is big business in Montana, bringing in tens of millions of dollars annually.
Tom Murphy Getty Images/National Geographic

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 9:08 pm

Trout fishing is a magnet that draws people from around the world to places like Ovando, Mont. Just ask the owner of Blackfoot Angler and Supplies, Kathy Schoendoerfer.

"Every state in the nation has been through this little shop in Ovando, Montana, population 50," says Schoendoerfer with a mix of pride and perhaps a little fatigue. "And we've also had everybody from Russia, Latvia. We get a lot of Canadians, France, Finland, Brazil, Scotland, Germany, South Africa. We get a lot of business out here. You know, fly-fishing is huge."

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Science
3:07 am
Thu November 14, 2013

As Climate Warms American West, Iconic Trout In Jeopardy

Native Westslope cutthroat trout and bull trout swim in the cool waters of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park, Montana.
Jonny Armstrong USGS

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 6:53 am

In the mountain streams of the American West, the trout rules. People don't just catch this fish; they honor it. And spend lots of money pursuing it.

But some western trout may be in trouble. Rivers and streams are getting warmer and there's often less water in them. Scientists suspect a changing climate is threatening this iconic fish.

I joined two such scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey as they drove up a mountain road in Montana, in the northern Rockies, a place dense with stands of Douglas fir and aspen trees and braided with mountain streams.

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Research News
5:13 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

How'd They Do That? The Story Of A Giant Rock And A Road Of Ice

The Large Stone Carving is the heaviest stone in the Forbidden City in Beijing. It was believed to have weighed more than 300 tons when it was first transported to the site between 1407 and 1420.
DEA/ W. Buss De Agostini/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 7:42 pm

Great works of ancient engineering, like the Pyramids or Stonehenge, inspire awe in every beholder. But some onlookers also get inspired to figure out exactly how these structures were made.

Howard Stone, an engineer from Princeton University, had such a moment in Beijing's Forbidden City — a city-within-a-city of palaces and temples built in the 15th and 16th centuries. A carved, 300-ton slab that formed a ramp to one structure particularly caught Stone's eye. "How in the world did it get here?" he wondered.

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Superstorm Sandy: Before, During And Beyond
4:08 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

In Sandy's Wake, Flood Zones And Insurance Rates Re-Examined

An emergency responder helps evacuate two people with a boat after their neighborhood in Little Ferry, N.J., was flooded.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 30, 2013 6:00 pm

When Sandy blew into East Coast communities a year ago, it was flooding that did the most damage.

That's in part because the average sea level has risen over the past century — about a foot along the mid-Atlantic coast. That made it easier for the storm to push the ocean onto the land.

And scientists say there will be many more Sandy-style storms — that is, torrential rain and wind that create heavy coastal flooding — and they'll be more frequent than in the past. But preparing people for that means changing the way they live, and that's proving politically difficult.

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